Events of the Wednesday so far…Spartacus peed in the bathtub and then pooped all over his towel while I was drying him off (seriously, this kid has a BM hourly – it’s ridiculous – can’t even time a bath in between), and I got an email from my sub telling me how spectacularly my group project for my freshmen failed:
The group idea in World History is a disaster…don’t even ask what has happened. I’m not sure I understand it myself. We need to come up with something else before they take their quiz. Too many instructions, too much talking for kids this age. I don’t think anything other than their notes go accomplished.
It seems Spartacus has had a more successful day than my students.
I got the idea for this group project from one of the freshmen English teachers who taught it in a professional development session last month. She called it jigsawing, and had used it with a grammar unit. She assigned freshmen in the class one of several grammar topics. They got together with other students who were assigned the same topic – let’s say, indirect objects – and discussed how they could teach the class this concept. Then, the groups were reorganized so each group had a student who knew about a different topic, and each student taught their group about their concept. It put the onus on the student, and the teacher said they knew the grammar unit far better than if she had tried to teach it herself.
Since the textbook is rather dry and I’m not a huge fan of this first unit in World History, I thought this was a little more creative and didn’t require them to read the entire chapter by themselves, and also didn’t ask my sub to go jumping into the computer labs the first week of school while technology is still working stuff out with the freshmen. I had favorited a few webquests on zunal, but now I’m glad I didn’t go that route; if they couldn’t figure out the group thing they’d NEVER be able to handle a webquest the first week of school.*
I tried to do this with their first chapter over early civilizations. The sub taught them how to take Cornell-style notes, and then we assigned them one of four sections from the textbook: the City-States of Mesopotamia, the Pyramids of the Nile, Planned Cities on the Indus, and River Dynasties of China. Each section was between 4-6 pages long. After they finished the notes, I gave these instructions on the board:
Get into groups with the other people who took notes on your same section.
Discuss within this group what you wrote down for key points/main ideas, and how you might teach this to a fellow student.
Now get into groups with four people – one who did each section – and spend the rest of class teaching your group about your section.
You may want to jot some notes down about the other sections as your peers teach you, since we will have a quiz on Friday!
Ask questions if you don’t understand something!
I had planned on giving them half a class period to take notes (truly, they’re 14, and it’s six pages of reading – with pictures! How hard can that be? But it’s taken three DAYS to get the notes done. I had originally planned to skip the grouping-with-their-own-material part, but then I thought, what if I had kids that didn’t “get” it? If they didn’t get the right main ideas of their section, then they couldn’t teach the other students, and those students would suffer. So I re-added the first part of jigsawing. It’s been four years since I student taught in an eighth grade classroom, so I don’t really remember how the younger teenage mind works, but I didn’t think this would be a “disaster.” Maybe my instructions only make sense to me, or I could have explained it better, or scaffolded better…but I can’t choose the groups from home, not knowing any of the students yet. Oh well…we’ll try it again later in the year, I guess. And as long as they understand that early civilizations basically sprung up around fresh water and that humans went from hunter/gatherers to farmers and herders, they’ve mastered the basic principles of the agricultural revolution according to state social studies standards.
Spartacus and I are starting to work on sleep-training this week, a la Gary Ezzo’s On Becoming Babywise book, recommended to me by several of my momma friends as the way to get baby on a schedule and sleeping through the night. Since the majority of the time Spartacus falls asleep with me or in his amazing Snugglebunny swing we recently inherited, I’m trying to get him to spend more time sleeping in his crib in preparation for going to daycare next month. As soon as he starts looking sleepy, I try to put him in his crib and he screams bloody murder – even when he is fed and dry. I’ve had to start setting a timer on the stove to force me to give him at least ten minutes before I go check on him, hoping he’ll tire himself out…it’s been three days and I haven’t gotten him to sleep in his crib for more than about 15 minutes before he either wets his diaper or needs his pacifier…after I try for about half an hour, I give up and bring him back out with me, which I’m pretty convinced is his game the whole time. He’ll have outgrown his bassinet soon and will be forced to move into his crib full-time, so I’m hoping we get this figured out soon…I know the rule is “nap when your baby naps,” but he seems to have taken it the other way around, only napping when I nap. Sigh…
*Webquests for the non-teachers: these are self-directed learning tools, where the teacher creates steps and a process online, and the student completes the steps at their own pace and have a lot of control over the finished product. I haven’t ever done one with a class before, but they look super-cool, and it’s one of those things where hundreds of thousands of teachers have already made them, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just borrow someone else’s wheel. Zunal.com is the one my colleagues use, but there are lots out there.